Carbide drill bits and saw blades have been the 'bread and butter' tools of structural steel fabricationshops for decades. If you needed to cut off a steel I beam or drill bolt holes into an H beam, what else could you use?

There's a new answer to that question:  the plasma torch. No longer just an esoteric way to cut structural steel plate, the plasma torch is becoming the workhorse of the modern fab shop.  A Hypertherm plasma torch in the hands of a super-accurate industrial robot can now perform virtually all the fabrication cutting and drilling jobs once done by beam drill lines, angle lines, coping robots, and even marking machines.

The apex of this new all-purpose plasma cutting machinery for the structural steel fabrication shop is PythonX. This site explores the uses and advantages of PythonX advanced robotic plasma cutting technology for structural steel processing.

             The Leader in Structural Steel Plasma Cutting Technology

Plasma Cutting Sites

New Fabricating Equipment for Structural Steel

The machines and tools used in structural steel fabrication have changed little in 20 years. The introduction of flexible plasma cutting technology is changing
the industry remarkably quickly.

Beam Coping by Plasma
Cutting copes in steel beams is
a drawn-out, multi-step process prone to errors. New robotic plasma technology makes it as simple and straightforward as drilling bolt holes.

Machinery Controlled by StruCad, Tekla & SDS/2

Structural steel detailing and analysis software now adds value far along the supply chain. Fabrication equipment that reads files from Tekla, SDS/2 and other programs can automatically set control parameters for CNC plasma cutting systems, so operators don't program cuts.

Structural Steel Beams
channel, HSS, plate and angle used to involve special-purpose machines or setups to fully fab
all required features. Now, a single machine fully fabricates
all of these workpieces.

The Plasma Beam Drill Line
is challenging more traditional equipment made by the likes of Peddinghaus, Ficep and others. That's because a plasma beam drill line is actually much more than that. It also copes, notches, scribes, bevel cuts and more.

Hytperthem plasma drives PythonX structural steel fabrication  

Plasma Cutting Technology That's Changing The Face Of Structural Steel Fabrication

In 2005, Burlington Automation Corporation introduced the PentArc 5-axis plasma cutting fabrication system for structural steel. Through user feedback and further design innovation, this breakthrough system evolved into today's PythonX 7-axis structural steel fabrication system – the first robotic plasma cutting machine tool that performs all the functions needed by structural steel fabricators . . . except welding, bolting and painting.

PythonX makes AISC-approved bolt holes, weld-prep bevel cuts, miter cuts, piece marks and layout marks. It drills slots, cuts notches and copes and cuts off sections to length . It performs all these functions, with pinpoint accuracy, on structural steel beams, HSS, channel, angle, plate. If the designer can draw it, PythonX can cut it using industry leading Hypertherm plasma technology.

Think plasma cutting is complicated? Think again. PythonX's PC- based operator interface accepts part detail files output by Tekla XSTEEL and other structural design packages. It uses the part file to determine the most efficient cutting sequence and paths. No operator layout, marking or programming is needed. He just pushes the 'START' button and PythonX's high-definition Hypertherm plasma torch cuts and drills all required features on the workpiece in a single pass.

These Machines Can Be Replaced By PythonX
  • Coping Torch/Robot
  • Marking Machine
  • Beam Drill Line
  • Bar/Plate Line
  • Burning Table
  • Angle Line
  • Bandsaw

Versatility, Flexibility And The Ingredients for
'Lean Manufacturing'

'Lean Manufacturing' is the art of turning out a quality product with a minimum of inputs. It entails high material utilization, conservation of resources (energy, workspace), and reduction of non-value-added activities, rework and waste. The PythonX plasma cutting machine gets a structural steel fab shop ' lean' practically overnight.

First, because it can replace numerous traditional fabrication machines (see box at right), it reduces floorspace requirements for fabrication and eliminates the maintenance, tooling and manpower to run those machines. Second, because PythonX makes all needed cuts and holes in a single pass, all the material handling that was needed to move a steel beam from one traditional machine to another (like bandsaw to drill line to coping torch) is eliminated.  Material handling is perhaps the most pervasive non-value activity done in structural steel fabrication shops.

That elimination of material handling means fab shops can reduce their non-skilled labor content, giving them a big cost advantage over competitors who don't use PythonX.

the leading CNC plasma cutting machine for structural steel

Squeezing Every Last Once of Cost Out Of Structural Fabrication

There are additional, less subtle ways that the PythonX plasma cutter can get your fab shop to 'ultra-lean'.

  • Its intelligent, software-driven determination of cutting paths,
    combined with the high-accuracy Hypertherm plasma torch,
    means cutting errors or inaccuracies are practically eliminated.

  • When you are fabricating on one machine, versus five or six,
    you need fewer machine operators.

  • Fewer machines also means much less in-process material
    waiting in queue at those machines. The PythonX 'one-pass'
    material flow means much less inventory is tied up as work-in-process.
    The result: faster turns on steel inventory.  
The success of PythonX users has motivated manufacturers of traditional structural steel fabrication equipment to try to introduce their own robotic plasma cutters. Some have tried and, apparently, given up. Others are working through development and debugging of their prototypes. Meanwhile, PythonX technology is closing in on 100 successful installations around the world.

Interested in gaining your own lean manufacturing advantage over your competitors? Contact us for a free PythonX DVD or to set up a live demonstration of this industry-changing technology.

Burlington Automation Corporation
63 Innovation Drive
Hamilton, Ontario L9H 7L8    Canada
905-689-7771 –  905-689-7773 (fax) –